Road to Redemption- Docu-series or PR strategy?

I discovered a new reality series the other day.  I usually just flip through these shows only stopping to watch a few seconds of them, but this one inparticular seemed to captivate my attention.  MTV’s reality special TI’s Road to Redemption: 45- Days To Go made me start to think; was this just an act to help troubled teens or a clever PR plan?

Let me back up for just a second and explain the background behind this docu-series.  TI’s Road to Redemption: 45- Days To Go, came about after Grammy award- winning, hip-hop artist, TI was arrested in posession of several weapons in 2007.  To further the matter, TI is also a convicted felon stemming back from his teenage years, which worsened the charges he faces.  In an effort to lesson his possible 30 year sentence, lawyers of the superstar made a bargain with the judge, which included 1000 hours of community service to be completed in a year at which he would be sentenced.  The show is a part of this community service effort in which TI is followed by a camera crew as he visits several troubled teens on the same path as he once was.

  At the height of his career (only a few months after his new album hit #1 on the charts) TI finds himself in a deep pool of legal trouble that will undoubtly come with some prison time.  What do you do in a situation like this?  Well, find the positive in the bad and maintain the reputation of the artist.  This is exactly what TI’s publicist and record label did.  What I find remarkable about this PR strategy was that they managed to maintatin a positive image of the superstar although he is facing criminal charges.

Most would see trouble like this as a huge kink in ones career, but this plan took the fact that he had a criminal background and used it to create an image of one who wants to help todays youth from making the same mistakes.  His docu- series shows him spending time with several troubled youths, telling them stories of his “days in the hood” and taking them to prisons to talk to inmates.  Clever?  I think so!  Not only does it maintain a positive reputation with the media and his fans, but it also draws attention to TI right before he does his time in prison.  Perhaps to keep media appearance and even a fan base at a high why he is doing his time (the show most likely will play several times on MTV over the next year). 

Furthermore, I found this PR tactic great in the fact that it didn’t try to hide or cover up the truth, rather it put it all out there.  It played on the crisis at hand and developed a strategy, a show, that played on the downfall of this superstar.  This plan brought attention to the fact that TI is being faced with prison time and highlighted part of his punishment (community service), but it was presented in a positive light in which will save the reputation of this artist. I believe this move secured the image and career of the hip-hop artist. 

The effects of this strategy are already seeing results.  Article after article I read on the subject had room for comment at the end from fans and those visiting the site.  About 99% of all comments were positive about the artist, some even   referring to him as amazing.

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6 Responses to Road to Redemption- Docu-series or PR strategy?

  1. lehanson says:

    While I agree with you on the fact that this is a great PR strategy, I can’t help but think how unfair it is judicially. In a way TI is being let off the hook because he is a celebrity and what kind of an example does that set? He is basically buying his way out of trouble and I’m sure MTV is helping pay the bills. The idea overall really is great PR but it has that looming negative image in the backdrop that the general public often associates with PR professionals and journalists and in the long run what good does that do this industry?

  2. plepkows says:

    I agree that this was a well-devised public relations campaign, and that T.I. must be working with some pretty smart public relations professions. T.I. is handling the situation well through transparency, dedication and responsibility. But then again, let’s not forget that it was court mandated. Knowing this, is it wrong that we recognize this as good public relations? Is this a case study we should look at as a model for good PR strategy, or is it nothing more than another classic case of spin doctoring?

  3. jsaxarra says:

    I agree with the first comment in that this is absolutely unfair, from a legal perspective. But the fact of the matter is that this isn’t even close to the first time a celebrity has been “let off the hook” in one way or another. It’s something that will probably never change, because the public holds these individuals with such high admiration.

    Honestly, I don’t think that the PR team working with T.I. had a lot to do. In my opinion, it’s almost like striking the lottery when something like this happens. You have an A-list celeb whom people look up to and it isn’t the PR firms’ fault if he goes to prison. They didn’t cause T.I. to break the law so it’s almost like they have nothing to lose. He completes his community service hours and you look great for ‘spinning’ it to appear as though he thoroughly helped out these troubled teens. He doesn’t complete them and, well, the blame comes back to him directly for breaking laws.

  4. viancavv says:

    I’ve caught a glimpse of this show here and there and it definitely sparked my curiosity about TI. I’m not too into his type of music, so this show alone has exposed me to him as an artist. If a PR professional was in fact in charge of this move, I’d say it’s effective. Still, I think the public tends to be pretty naive about celebrities like this. After so many years of his bad behavior and trouble with the law, it’s pretty convenient that he’s claiming that he’s learned his lessson, right before he gets locked up. Perhaps there is a sincerity in his actions, but i truly believe the benefits of this are not well deserved considering is troubled past. People are too gullable in my opionion. If it is a PR move, well played, people are falling for it.

  5. Mickey Siegel says:

    A great topic and I find this as a great PR strategy. I have seen this docu-series and I quite like it. You bring up a good point when you mentioned the possible empathy that the audience feels for T.I. As far as PR goes, it just proves that it is a very good job. As you mentioned, the docu-series is a part of the community service, but the series itself wasn’t mandatory. Quality job by T.I. and MTV for not only putting together a well-made docu-series, but also a top-notch publicity stint for T.I.

  6. cconeder says:

    It’s so interesting to see this topic as a post, I hadn’t thought about it but now I completely see the whole PR tactic behind the show. It makes perfect sense, why wouldn’t they use this as a PR strategy? I think celebrities obviously have an easier time getting away with things than us normal people do, but it’s crazy when you point out how the media can turn it around to make them appear as the victim in a positive light. I do like the show as well, but whether or not he ends up serving a long prison sentence, his career will most likely be safe due in part to this series.

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